Bud Billiken 2021: Chicago back-to-school parade back after pandemic hiatus; Candace Parker at helm

Bud Billiken Parade location: Route starts at 45th Street, King Drive, stretches down to 55th Street into Washington Park, Chicago
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Bud Billiken is finally back.

"The fact that we have a parade is exciting, that it's still going to happen," said Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, president and CEO of Chicago Defender Charities. "This parade for 92 years has represented culture, families coming together, three, four generations coming together. It's a big family reunion."

After being canceled in 2020 for the first time since its founding in 1929 because of the pandemic, the 92nd year of the event will return Saturday morning to Chicago's South Side with a theme of back to school, back to life and back to Bud Billiken.

It's the first time Bran Arla Johnson, and more than 20 families and staff of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters group are marching in the iconic parade.

"We feel like kids need mentoring more than ever now, and this is an opportunity for us to get the word out," Johnson said.

This year's grand marshal is Chicago Sky basketball player Candace Parker, who is also a two-time WNBA MVP.

RELATED: Chicago dance troupe to perform at Bud Billiken in honor of slain founder

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also attended the event Saturday, urging parents to prepare for their children to go back to school full-time at the end of the month.

WATCH: Mayor Lightfoot speaks ahead of Bud Billiken Parade


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Mayor Lightfoot spoke on CPS back-to-school ahead of the Bud Billiken Parade Saturday.



The Chicago Defender Charities, which produces the event, said it will be a modified version with an abbreviated route, which will start at 45th Street and King Drive. Rapid COVID testing will also be available nearby.

The parade route stretched down to 55th Street into Washington Park, where a family festival called "It Takes A Village" not only featured food, activities and entertainment for all ages, as well as back to school giveaways, but also free COVID vaccinations.

The event was from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"We have a responsibility to bring information and resources to our community, especially when there's a lot of misinformation out there in terms of the COVID vaccine," Sengstacke-Rice said.

Organizers encouraged attendees to wear masks along the parade route. However, people attending the festival has show vaccination card or proof of a negative COVID test in the last 72 hours, as well as wear masks regardless vaccination status.

The parade had roughly 125 entrants, including a fan favorite -- the South Shore Drill Team.

"The Bud Billiken Day Parade is that one event we put on the calendar in permanent marker 'cause we know we are going to participate," said Stella Natufe, special events manager and an alumna. "We try to do our best ever time we hit the street, not just for Bud Billiken. We just put a little bit more sugar when it comes to Bud Billiken."

ABC 7 Chicago is planning to air a special of highlights from the 2021 Bud Billiken event the following weekend at 11 a.m. Aug. 21, hosted by Cheryl Burton, Jim Rose and Hosea Sanders.

Organizers said despite the changes, the parade and festival will offer the same type of entertainment, food and fun that's delighted multiple generations of families for years.

For more information, visit www.budbillikenparade.org.
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